Under Pennsylvania law, there are numerous DUI crimes a person can be charged with, including DUI – combined influence of alcohol and drugs. In a recent case decided by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the court addressed what constitutes sufficient evidence to convict a person of DUI – combined influence. If you reside in Pennsylvania and are charged with a DUI crime it is important to meet with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss your charges and what evidence the Commonwealth may introduce against you at trial.
Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest
It is reported that at approximately 1:00 pm, while a police officer was conducting an investigation due to a report of erratic driving, he observed the defendant driving down the street. The defendant stopped her vehicle and advised the officer she wanted to speak with him, after which the officer directed the defendant to move her car to the side of the road. When the officer approached the defendant’s vehicle, he noticed a strong odor of alcohol. He asked the defendant to exit her vehicle. The defendant complied and admitted to consuming a beer at 9:30 am.
It is alleged that the officer then asked the defendant to submit to field sobriety testing. During the tests, she showed signs of impairment, but she passed two of the three tests she performed. The defendant then submitted to a blood test. Her BAC was 0.076% and her test results indicated the presence of Diazepam and Nordiazepam in her blood. She was subsequently charged with and convicted of DUI – combined influence. The defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence presented by the Commonwealth was insufficient to prove her impairment beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sufficiency of Evidence of DUI – Combined Influence of Alcohol and Drugs
The statutory provision defining DUI – combined influence states that a person may not drive a vehicle if he or she is under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol to a degree that impairs the person’s ability to drive safely. In the subject case, the court noted that the arresting officer did not observe the defendant swerving or otherwise driving erratically, and did not stop the defendant due to suspicion of DUI. Further, the defendant passed two of the three field sobriety tests she was administered.
Based on the foregoing, the court found that the evidence was insufficient to support the defendant’s conviction. The court explained that while the defendant was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, due to the fact that her BAC was under the legal limit, the Commonwealth was required to prove that the combined effect of the drugs and alcohol rendered her unable to safely operate a vehicle. The court found that the trial court’s ruling, which was based on the arresting officer’s lay opinion that the defendant was not capable of driving safely, was not supported by adequate evidence. As such, the court vacated the defendant’s conviction.
Meet with a Capable DUI Defense Attorney
If you are a resident of Pennsylvania currently charged with a DUI crime it is advisable to meet with a capable Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss your charges and your available defenses. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a diligent attorney who will work tirelessly to help you seek as a successful result in your case. Mr. Cooper can be contacted at (215) 542-0800 or via the online form to set up a free and confidential meeting to discuss your case.